The Piano Teacher sat down with the marvellous Cheryl van Wageningen to talk about her experiences as a piano teacher.
What area of Australia do you teach in?
Predominantly metropolitan Adelaide but also in the Fleurieu Peninsula area of South Australia. Most of my piano lessons are taught at the homes of my students.
When was your first piano lesson?
It was more of an informal introduction to the piano by the landlady from the age of nine. She then kindly found and paid for private lessons close to my home when I was 10 years old.
Do you have any favourite memories of your teachers?
To be honest, my piano teacher (in the early years) was quite ‘old school’ and our lessons were very structured and always included theory. Thinking back to university, there were lecturers that really stood out because of their youthful and innovative approach to teaching.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to piano teaching as a profession.
I have always loved music and especially playing the piano but my first vocation was Nursing. After having a family, I studied and completed a Degree in Accounting.
However, music was always present in my life and eventually I was able to complete my music degree at university. The degree provided me with the accreditation to feel confident to teach others piano and theory in a professional and up-to-date manner.
How many students do you generally teach a week and what ages/ranges?
I am now semi-retired and try to restrict myself to no more than 10 students a week.
The ages range from 8 years old to 74 years young.
What are your go-to winners for repertoire for beginners?
For my younger students it is definitely the P Plate Piano series published by the AMEB and edited by Elissa Milne. The illustrations, colour and versatility of the pieces enables a varied approach to learning the piano.
Older students generally choose their own repertoire and the Piano for Leisure series also published by the AMEB is a popular choice.
Are there any pieces that are your current favourites or new things you’ve found?
Didgeridoo by Sitsky is a great piece for incorporating changing tempi and acknowledging Indigenous music. Hickory Dickory by Milne is excellent for introducing crossover and hand coordination. These are both in the AMEB P Plate Piano Books.
The Rockschool books for contemporary piano and keyboard are an excellent addition to the repertoire of all ages and abilities. Imagine by J Lennon in the Debut Book for Contemporary Piano is a great starter for older students.
The AMEB Piano for Leisure pieces that are popular and always fun yet challenging to learn are, The Singing Sioux by William Gillock, Kerin Bailey’s Left Hand Drive, Christopher Norton’s Scamp, Marvin Fisher’s When Sunny Gets Blue, George Gershwin’s I got Rhythm and Dave Bruebeck’s Take Five.
What music do you listen to in your down time?
ABC Classic FM, Jazz and contemporary music. I enjoy listening to many styles of music and it helps when teaching lots of different ages and genres.
Who are you favourite performers?
Classical – Konstantin Shamray
Contemporary – Sir Elton John
Jazz – Diana Krall
Do you do any composing?
Yes, I really enjoy composing pieces for family, friends and special occasions. I especially like to compose pieces that reflect my indigenous heritage such as ‘The Coorong Trilogy’ that I performed earlier this year and was featured in the short documentary, ‘Dot Music’.
As part of History month, I am performing a piece that I originally composed for a cello and piano duet titled, ‘Woven Threads’.
Cheryl van Wageningen is a proud Peramangk/ Ngarrindjeri descendent. She is a Full Member of the Music Teachers Association of South Australia (MTASA) and has served on its Council. In January, Cheryl spoke and performed at the MTASA Summer Conference on the topic ‘Performing in the 21st Century: An Indigenous Perspective’.
Career highlights have included performances at Apology Day events and Fleurieu Festivals.
A documentary, titled ‘Dot Music’ was filmed about Cheryl and aired on NITV in 2018- 2019.
Cheryl holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Adelaide and attained Grade 8 (Classical) with the Australian Music Examinations Board (A.M.E.B.).
Cheryl also commits to the community through music sessions at Southern Cross Aged Care (SA)